Spandexless Reads 7/23/12 / by Anthony Rosen

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Editor's Note: Many thanks to Alec Berry, who started out as the first Spandexless Reads columnist. He has chosen to leave the site and we wish him the best of luck in all his projects elsewhere. Today is the first of our NEW Spandexless Reads column, shepherded now by Anthony Rosen. We want this column to be a place where you can get to know us as readers, not just as writers, and see what we've been picking up beside the books we review on this site. From now on, this will be a column that goes up on Sunday mornings. So read it with your paper. Or Twitter. Or while eating cereal. Or whatever. Point is, thanks for reading Spandexless and we'd love to hear not just ourselves (though, as writers, of course we DO love the sound of our own posts) but we also want to know what YOU are reading this week. So without farther ramblings, here's the new Spandexless Reads, from Anthony Rosen. -Beth Welcome readers, to the brand spanking new Spandexless Reads!

Well, to be fair it's not all that new.  We'll still bring you the best bits of our weekly pulls, taking plenty of time to babble about our favorite purchases, perusals, and publications.  But first things first.  As Alec departs the site to move on to bigger and better things, on behalf of the Spandexless team, I'd like to wish him all the best in his future endeavors.  I've had the great luck to inherit this column in his stead, and I have to say I'm excited to take the reigns.  I hope you continue to enjoy our meandering musings, and I'd  like to take this opportunity to ask all of you to share your own reads from the past week with us.  Picked up something fantastically weird, obtusely out of the ordinary or incredibly imaginative?  Tell us about it in the comments!

This week we take on Barbarians of the past and far future as I talk Prophet and Patrick gives Conan the Barbarian some love, and Beth highlights her favorite reads from SDCC.

Anthony Rosen // That's me!

--Prophet #26

If I showed you the right panels from Prophet I could probably convince you that the book is actually about the adventures of John Prophet, intergalactic connoisseur of extra-terrestrial treats and delicacies.  In every issue you're treated to adventures in eating exotic foods as John hunts down anything with more than two limbs and a heartbeat, sticks a skewer in it, and slowly rotisseries it over a nice campfire.

Fine foods aside, Prophet has quickly become my go-to title every week.  With his brutally unfamiliar vision of the future, Brandon Graham has accomplished the feat of turning the Image title into the freshest take on the Barbarian genre since Conan himself.

--Superman: Legends of the DC Universe

This one was my favorite quarter bin purchase of the week, a buy based solely on the cover's promise of excellent art.  I was pleasantly surprised to find J.O. Ladronn style's a little bit Jack Kirby and and a little bit Mike Allred.  In it, Superman is shrunken down in order to journey to a miniature world inside a top-secret military facility and finds himself pitted against the world's inhabitants, who happen to be made up entirely of classic horror film characters.  At one point, Superman is escorted via dinosaur to meet Frankenstein.

It is a fantastic comic.

--Adventure Time #6

My final purchase is just as good as you've heard it is.  Written so well, you can hear the character's voices pop of the page the minute you pick it up.  The best part about this purchase though, was what happened to me after I left the store.  Jumping right into the book on my train ride home, I noticed a kid next to me ogling the pages.  I thought it might have just been a vague interest in the Adventure Time characters, but as my commute went on it quickly became clear that the kid was entranced.  When I pulled into my stop, I turned to him and asked if he liked comics.  The look on his face after I gave him my issue really drove home the notion that Pendleton Ward has something uniquely excellent on his hands, and I can't wait to see what new directions Ryan North takes his characters in.

Patrick Smith // Has a beard he's very proud of

So as much as I hate to admit it I'm very close to being nearly four months behind with a lot of my monthlies. Couple that with the fact I wasn't able to get to my LCS this week, so needless to say I had somewhat slim pickings of books to talk about this week. That being said there are always a few books I make sure to read, One of those being Batman #11. Of all the "New 52" books (and one has to wonder if something nearly a year old is new) Batman has been without a doubt the strongest book in terms of creative teams. Scott Snyder writes a Batman that, to me, is far more compelling and relatable than what we've been given in a lot of the other Bat-books.  Artist Greg Capullo has a great style that lends itself well to the kind of high octane adventure story with horror undertones that Snyder has been writing, which has made every issue of this book a must read for me. Which is why I was so disappointed with issue 11, which I think stumbled severely in its conclusion of this arc, to the point where the issue essentially consisted of the main bad guy that has spent this entire arc taunting Batman and making him question the very nature of his relationship with Gotham flying around and screaming his whole motivation which essentially turned the whole issue into a big exposition dump.  Capullo manages to keep the book at least visually interesting with some good action and some cool set pieces but for an arc that felt like a constantly tightening coiled spring this issue made it feel very unsatisfying in the end.

A book that was not unsatisfying in the least was Conan the Barbarian #6. I've talked about my love for this book before (and most likely will again) but this issue in particular was immensely satisfying. Brian Wood finishes up an original arc within Robert E Howard's seminal Queen of the Black Coast.  Wood continues to characterize Conan in interesting ways while adding layers to his relationship with the Pirate Queen Belit.  But the real star of this issue is James Harren.  There is no doubt in my mind that Harren is a supreme talent, especially when teamed with the masterful colors of Dave Stewart. Harren is an artist that can make the most horrific violence sing with a sort of distorted beauty. A big part of this issue involves the search for Belit in the riot filled streets of a city, and Harren makes you feel every swing of Conan's sword as he goes through countless soldiers with the sort of howling anger and savagery that just sort of makes you put down the book after the last page and say "Holy shit".

Finally, I've been rereading The Other Side. I originally read this a few years ago, and I'll be the first to admit that my reaction to the majority of writer Jason Aaron's Marvel work has left me cold over the years (except for his run on Ghost Rider, that was awesome) but The Other Side is nothing if not a high quality emotional gut punch. The book puts a pretty big emphasis on how war, particularly the Vietnam war, was a maddening, indescribable hell.  The book's hook, telling the story from both the perspective of an American Marine and a soldier of the North Vietnamese Army, brings to the forefront the differences and similarities between the two disparate cultures.  Aaron adds a layer of psychosis to the book, which is only intensified by the art of Cameron Stewart. The book reaches a point where it becomes difficult to tell where the war begins and the madness ends, but I suppose that's the point. There's a plethora of violence and horrifying imagery that makes the book a pretty intense reading experience. Despite all that, the small and personal moments stick with you, not the least of which being a Vietnamese soldier asking his commanding officer

"Tell me....what is communism?".

It's a sharp and brutal line, capable of re-contextualizing the whole war into a different light that makes you wonder if the whole horrific situation wasn't incredibly more horrible than you could've possibly imagined, and dammit if that doesn't make for a great read.

Beth Scorzato // Token lady

I've spent the week catching up on all the books I bought at SDCC, which turned into a kind of all-ages week for me. I finally checked out Princeless from Action Lab Entertainment, for myself. It lost out on an Eisner to Snarked in the Best Comic for Ages 8-12 category, but award-winner or not, I am loving it and can't wait to see more. Also, I finally bought myself a copy of Zita the Spacegirl, a First Second book that I've been meaning to pick up for a while.  I was already excited to read it to begin with, but just a few pages in there was a page that hit me hard and really reminded me why I love First Second titles. But I'm going to review it this week so... no spoilers! Either way I was super jealous that I couldn't buy the ARC of the next Zita book they had on display at the show.

Another "sitting on the showfloor read" (literally... there weren't enough chairs in my booth) that I was particularly excited about was Skyward by Jeremy Dale. His booth was across from the one I work at for the second year in a row. I remembered seeing him there with issue #1 last year, and was intrigued but never picked it up. This year he was there with a full volume #1 and I snatched it up the last day of the show. Wow.

The art is phenomenal (and I only bought the graphite edition, like above) and the story is rich and well-thought-out. It's only just starting but I am eager to see where he takes this high energy, high fantasy tale.

--FIN

Let us know what you read this week! Let's compare notes.